Britain in Syria: a gift to ISIS

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Britain in Syria: a gift to ISIS

Paul Rogers 3 December 2015 openDemocracy

 

The lower house of the British parliament voted late on 2 December to extend the country’s air war to Syria.  The United Kingdom will thus become the fourth western state to be involved along with France and Australia, though the United States remains the dominant force in the whole operation.  British aircraft will bring a little bit extra to the raids but the political significance of their deployment is much greater than the military one.  Now that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE have all stopped their own airstrikes on Syria, the anti-ISIS campaign has become almost entirely a western war.

Overall, this is an element largely missed by the western media.  But it will be used relentlessly by ISIS propagandists as they portray this as a “crusader war” against Islam.

That depiction includes Russia’s increasing role.  Until recently, Russian forces were operating airstrikes from a single airbase near Latakia on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, together with two smaller forward operating bases (FOBs) dependent partly on helicopter supply.  Russia is now in the process of a rapid expansion that will come close to doubling its involvement, including an enlarged airbase at Shayrat airport near Homs, and two more FOBs.

Moscow also seeks to ensure protection for its planes in light of Turkey’s destruction of one of its jets.  It has begun to install the long-range S-400 ground-launched anti-aircraft missile in Latakia, and there may well be deployments to Shayrat as well.  Most of this military activity is directed at supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and its planes and helicopters hardly face any threat from what remains of the Syria airforce.  Thus the new missile placement must be seen as a signal to states such as Turkey and Israel not to threaten Russian forces.  The risk of miscalculation on all sides is a recipe for increased tension.

This is the complex and disorganised theatre of war that the UK is now moving into.  But it is also a war that is accelerating in other directions.  All the indications from Washington are that the administration is intent on expanding the air war in both Syria and Iraq.  Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the United States military, says the US “will adjust its tactics and risk more civilian casualties when launching air strikes against high-value targets in Syria and Iraq as part of an effort to increase pressure on Islamic State militants.”  More civilians will be killed but, as the chair of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph Dunford, put it so plainly this week:  “Our threshold for collateral damage increases with the value of the target”.

A clear element of “mission creep” is revealed by the fact that US special forces will operate in greater numbers and at higher levels both in Syria and Iraq, engaging particularly in search-and-destroy operations against ISIS leadership elements.  Almost certainly, this reflects the Pentagon’s determination that – in the absence of progress elsewhere – it is time to relearnthe lessons of the JSOC’s activities in Iraq a decade ago, when Task Force 145 took the war to Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI).  The group was then directed by its Jordanian leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

This history is worth remembering, since so many of the paramilitary survivors of that bitter, brutal and largely unreported war have gone on to make up significant parts of the hard-core, middle-ranking ISIS paramilitaries that are ensuring the survival of the movement.

A growing network

There are two further developments to consider in a war that, it is often said, is going badly for ISIS.  The first is that ISIS in Syria, let alone Iraq, is proving far more robust and able to organise the towns and cities it now controls.  It is aided by an apparently unending supply of technocrats from the Iraqi Ba’athist era who are able to handle the details.

The ISIS-run areas are responsible for managing all routine matters such as water supplies, policing, sewage disposal, transport, schools, taxation, control of roads, street cleaning and commercial permits.  This is little reported in the west, yet though the ultimate rule may be brutal, routine living conditions can actually be safer in and around Raqqa than in chaotic and violent districts nearby that ISIS does not control.  So much so that there are actually some refugee flows into ISIS-controlled area since they are seen as safer than much of the rest of Syria.

The second, and again almost entirely missed, feature of ISIS behaviour is the considerable attention it is now paying to establishing a second proto-caliphate in the Libyan port city of Sirte.  There, it has a city and many miles of coast under its control, and is reported to be gaining access to oil resources as well.   A new United Nations report says that ISIS has moved 2,000-3,000 paramilitary fighters to join the existing ISIS-linked elements in Sirte.  This opens the possibility of direct links to the north across the Mediterranean towards Italy, and south across the Sahara towards countries in the Sahel such as Mali and Niger.

In short, ISIS may be under serious pressure, but it shows no signs of facing defeat in Syria and Iraq and is actually expanding in Libya.  The UK parliament’s decision to join the bombing of ISIS in Syria may have considerable political meaning in Britain, but in the wider scheme of things it is not much more than a sideshow.

A new front

Even so, it is likely to become progressively more controversial within the UK, an element that may well be highlighted by the nature of the very first attacks carried out within hours of the end of the parliamentary debate.  Four RAF Tornados flew from Akrotiri in Cyprus and attacked six targets in an oilfield in eastern Syria with Paveway IV bombs, an attack that was intended to damage ISIS oil production.

Yet it is highly unlikely that the people actually operating that oilfield would have been dedicated ISIS paramilitaries and far more likely that they would have been ordinary workers.  Two days ago the Pentagon announced that US warplanes had destroyed over a hundred oil tankers, but who was driving them?  Most likely they were ordinary contract drivers for transport companies, albeit under ISIS control.

In short, trying to destroy ISIS from the air will inevitably mean many civilian casualties, but the UK, French, US and other governments will hardly want to focus on that: as General Tommy Franks of the US army said early in the Iraq war, “we don’t do body counts”.

No indeed, “we” don’t, but “they” do.  Indeed it is certain that ISIS propagandists will already be at work publicising the backgrounds of people who got killed by the RAF attacks, probably with photos of their families and plenty of other personal details.  That is the nature of the war that the House of Commons has approved.

 

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Terrorism, Globalization and Conspiracy – Michael Parenti

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Michael Parenti speaking in 2002 but he might as well be speaking now…. and he is well worth hearing now!  An hour of your life to understand the links between Capitalism, Poverty, the Trade Deals, Globalisation, Debt, the fall of the Soviet Union, the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and finally, Terrorism.

 

Terrorism, Globalization and Conspiracy – Michael Parenti

Jeremy Corbyn – Toxic Rivals and Labour’s Future

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Jeremy Corbyn, as a candidate for the Leader of the Labour Party presents a welcome change to British politics. Now we hear of an alternative to the damaging policies of cuts. In this interview, he speaks about his toxic rivals and Labour’s future. His words are clear, intelligent and speak the sense which so many Labour supporters have been waiting to hear for so long.

  • Banking Crisis – Corbyn supports Tight Regulations on Banks
  • NHS  – Opposes Private Finance Initiatives, Supports Health Service for all
  • Iraq War – Jeremy Corbyn opposed sale of arms to Iraq, and founded Stop the War movement
  • Benefits Cap – Inequality and Poverty is Appalling
  • Deficit and Austerity – Labour should be Investing in People and The Future
  • Tax – Closing Tax Loopholes and Corporation Tax Avoidance a priority
  • Europe – Labour need a Voice in Europe, opposing TTIP

The way to win is to attack the opposition’s civilian population

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August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. While Japan was still trying to comprehend this devastation three days later, the United States struck again, this time, on Nagasaki. ( 9th August 1945)

68 years on from Hiroshima, The Nuclear Madness Remains

 

The 69th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reminds me of Chomsky’s observation that the way to win a war is to attack the other side’s civilian population … it worked in Japan, and (particularly at the moment) it is obviously the strategy.

More than ever before, we are being brought face to face with the horrors of the bloodshed.  The genocidal intent of the Israelis in Gaza, the barbarism of ISIS in Iraq, the murderous gas pipeline power struggle in Syria, the little reported ethnic and cultural ‘cleansing’ of the Donbass region of Ukraine and many unreported massacres in the Congo, Sudan and more.

Chomsky illustrates the effectiveness (and hypocrisy) of the strategy in recent piece about downing of the passenger plane in the Ukraine:

Every literate person, and certainly every editor and commentator instantly recalled another case when a plane was shot down with comparable loss of life: Iran Air 655 with 290 killed, including 66 children, shot down in Iranian airspace in a clearly identified commercial air route. The crime was not carried out “with U.S. support,” nor has its agent ever been uncertain. It was the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes, operating in Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf….It was a major factor in Iran’s recognition that it could not fight on any longer, according to historian Dilip Hiro. 

http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/44265-outrage.html

Naturally, if it is ‘their’ forces, it is described as a massacre and an outrage, but if the killing is from ‘our side’, it is simply collateral damage, unreported or reported as if legitimate.

This is not new, as Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed details in his lecture ‘The Hidden Holocaust’, reposted below.  Historically, this was the pattern of colonisation.  Millions of indigenous peoples were systematically exterminated and their cultures erased.  The remaining population was cowed and of necessity compliant.

But the killing continues.  It may be overt as in Gaza, Donetsk or Iraq… or it may be hidden in the statistics about ever increasing global poverty or the million children who die every year from Malaria or from the unrecorded effects of sanctions or from polluted environments or the people dispossessed of their land by corporations or poverty wages or by removing social security or from climate change.  None of these need be happening.

Nowadays, colonisation is less about occupying a land mass and more about controlling the economy. For example, in order to eradicate the socialism of Allende and impose strict free market-oriented neoliberal economic reforms, the US-backed Pinochet’s armies killed or ‘disappeared’ at least 3,000.  These were representatives from the cultural world, intellectuals, university staff and students, forcing 200,000 Chileans into exile – up to 80,000 people were interned and as many as 30,000 were tortured during the time Pinochet was in government.  The proposed trade deals, TTIP, TPP and TISA are the latest way to achieve the same, by setting corporate rule above national governments, to the detriment of ordinary people and threat to the most vulnerable.

But in addition to all of this, the other side’s ‘massacres’ are exploited to persuade populations that their side are the ‘good guys’  and if required, they should go and fight…  Pearl Harbour and 9/11 spring to mind.  Jim Grundy writes of the start of WW1:

A hundred years ago today the most advanced military machine in the world, the Germany Army, invaded its neighbours.  Within 48 hours, the first massacres of civilians took place, not by accident but as a matter of deliberate policy. Thousands were to be murdered in the coming weeks.  British public opinion, that had not been sympathetic to Serbia after the Sarajevo assassinations, was appalled by the stories of mass murder committed against a defenceless population.  The British State might have gone to war to protect the European balance of power, its own imperial interests but the reason for war was clear to most British people – the avoidance of the fate meted out by an aggressive military power to women and children here at home.

 

Massacres and atrocities are brilliant tools for galvanising ordinary people into the required behaviour…  Capitulation to stop the killing, compliance on the part of the oppressed and public support for conscription, surveillance and draconian security clamp-downs.  The global power elites need to convince us because they cannot further their own interests, without our being frightened or fooled into backing them.  Don’t believe the hypocritical and sanctimonious talk about the outrage of killing civilians.  It is palpably untrue.

As Chomsky says – Israel could “defend” itself by withdrawing from territories it illegally occupies.

When the powers-that-be talk about security, it is not for you and me .. the security they mean is security for the rich and powerful to stay rich and powerful.

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed : The_Hidden_Holocaust

 

Political analyst on security, conflict and global crisis. Director of Institute for Policy Research & Development, London. Author of “The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry” (Duckworth, 2006) and “The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism” (Arris, Olive Branch, 2005).

Not one will be forgotten: the lies that take us to war

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Not one will be forgotten: the lies that take us to war

By CJ Stone, previously published here 

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

George Orwell

For the past weeks I’ve been delivering British Legion letters to the people of Whitstable.

You will have seen them. The envelope shows a picture of a bunch of First World War British Tommies, kitted out ready for war, with their helmets and their rifles, smiling and carefree, on their way to the front. It’s obvious that none of them have seen any action as yet or they wouldn’t be smiling. By the end of the war most of them will be dead, wounded or severely traumatised.

Above the picture are the words “Over one million men fell”, and below it, “Not one shall be forgotten.”

One forgotten

How disingenuous this sentiment is. It is obvious that we’ve forgotten them or we wouldn’t still be sending our troops to foreign parts in order for them to kill and be killed.

How many more of the dead must we remember before we realise that war is always the problem, never the solution, and almost invariably based on lies?

The world’s first national propaganda organisation was the Ministry of Information in the UK, created during the First World War in order to mobilise public opinion in favour of the war.

One of its great achievements was in characterising the Germans as barbarians. It called them “the Hun” and, in one famous case, accused them of having bayoneted babies during the invasion of Belgium in 1914. That was a lie.

Later the lie was repeated. In 1990 an anonymous female calling herself Nayirah told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the USA that she had seen Iraqi soldiers throw Kuwaiti babies out of incubators, where they would be left on the floor to die. The testimony was used by the President of the United States to justify American involvement in the First Gulf War.

That too turned out to be a lie.

We all remember the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Apologists for the Second Gulf War now characterise that as a mistake, saying that everyone agreed that Saddam was hiding weapons. This is another lie. I remember seeing reports at the time clearly debunking the evidence, while Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons, resigned saying he did not believe there were any weapons. Later David Kelly came out with talk of the evidence being “sexed-up”.

Both Robin Cook and David Kelly died in mysterious circumstances.

More recently there is evidence that the threatened slaughter of civilians in Benghazi, on which the 2011 No Fly Zone over Libya was based, was also a lie.

Lies, lies and yet more lies.

Now here is the truth. War is profitable. War makes money, for the arms industry, for the weapons manufacturers, for the security services, for the sub-contractors employed to rebuild the country. War is essential for the capitalist economy. It is through war that public money is funnelled into private hands. Without war, all the research and development into the high tech industries couldn’t take place. We’d have no computers, no internet, no digital revolution. War is the means by which public finances can be put at the service of the private economy. It is Military Keynesianism.

Keynesianism argues that a constant injection of public money into the economy is necessary for economic stability. In post-war states, that meant money for infrastructure projects, for hospitals and housing, for the welfare state. Military Keynesianism has no need of such wasteful expenditure. Why put money in the hands of the people? It uses the state machine to siphon the money directly into private hands using security issues as its means. Hence the need to keep us constantly on the alert. Hence the need for lies.

It’s the same people who argue for deregulation and privatisation of our public services who also drum up the hysteria about foreign threats and the need to combat terrorism. You want to know how to stop the threats against us? Stop threatening them. You want to know how to stop terrorism? Stop participating in it.

The latest war in Syria is just another in a long line of manufactured threats, and there’s already been a number of notable lies.

One of them was the massacre at Houla. The first time we heard about it was when the media reported that 108 civilians in the village had been killed by shell fire. To illustrate the atrocity the BBC showed a photograph of several rows of dead children wrapped up ready for burial. Except that it quickly emerged that these photographs weren’t from Houla at all, but had been taken in Iraq almost a decade earlier.

‘Somebody is using my images as a propaganda against the Syrian government to prove the massacre’, said photographer Marco Di Lauro, whose photo it was.

Nevertheless the propaganda onslaught continued, for several weeks, suggesting that the Syrian government had been involved in the murder of civilians. It was only later that the truth emerged, in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that actually the victims had been pro-government Alawites murdered by the rebels and then used as anti-government propaganda. Needless to say, while the initial reports were front page stories, the later retractions were buried in the small print or not mentioned at all.

More recently we’ve had the story of the chemical attack on Ghouta, which I’ve written abouthere. This has also been exposed as a lie.

So next time you hear of a supposed threat from an embattled, weakened and severely impoverished third world nation, remember: War  is the mechanism by which our masters control us. It is the means by which we are enslaved.

Harry Patch, Britain’s last fighting Tommy, said of War that it is legalised mass murder.

And while it is legitimate to think of the dead of the two World Wars at this sombre time ofremembrance, it is also right to temper our reflections with the knowledge that the justification for most of these wars has been based upon fabrications, and that our soldiers did not die for freedom, or democracy, or any of the other platitudes, but to serve the interests of the few.